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(This is the introduction to a sermon on Hosea 1-2)

The Savior Who Bears Shame

Hosea 1:2 (NASB95)

2          When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.”

The story of Hosea is a story of the unyielding, unchanging grace and love of God. It is the story of love which undergirds the course of history. The love and grace of God form the architecture of the movement of time. The rebellion of Adam and failure of Israel could not unmake the love of God. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”. Rom. 5:20.

God’s grace brings life from death, for

1 Corinthians 1:27–29 (NASB95)

27        … God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,

            28        and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,

            29        so that no man may boast before God.

This love runs deep in the channels of time; it forms the steel frame of all the universe; it bears such strength that not even death, not even adultery can break the bond of God’s love. It is the love of a God which begins before God said, “Let there be light.”  As Paul tells Titus, God promised eternal life, “long ages ago.”  It is a love which stretch into all eternity, as Christ has promised, “Where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3. It a transforming love which takes the one who is unlovely, and remakes him; it is love which presents the bride, “holy and blameless”.  Eph. 5:27

It is a love that will overcome all obstacles, so that not even the foulest rebellion will thwart his love:

For love is as strong as death

Jealousy is as severe as Sheol

It’s flashes are flashes of fire

The very fame of the Lord

Many waters cannot quench love

Nor will rivers overflow it

If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love

It would be utterly despised.

Song 8:6-7

But the story of God’s love in Hosea does not begin with the beauty of romance; with the hope and expectation of young love. The story begins with rank adultery, with spite, with unloved children, with war and chaos lurking at the horizon.

The book begins with this gunshot to the chest. We know nothing Hosea before — and little after — this command comes from the Lord:

Go take for yourself a wife of harlotry

Or as the King James aptly puts it

take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms

There is no preparation told us for this command. God comes and makes this command — and the personal commands of God cannot be avoided — a shocking command. Image come has come to you and says, You, marry that whore. Think of the confusion, the revulsion, the pain.

The command is almost inexplicable on its face. A variety of commentators have sought many explanations — and there are several explanations — but none of them can really get around the point of the disgust.

John Calvin, for instance, cannot believe that God would give such a command to the prophet. He draws out the trouble here: the wife to be is not “without blame in holiness before our God and Father”. She is no one’s “hope or joy or crown of exultation.” As Calvin writes, this woman

who has exposed herself to all, to gratify the wish of all, who has prostituted herself, not once or twice, nor to a few men, but to all.

This woman is not beguiling, not attractive. She is ruined with lust. Calvin cannot believe that God would bring such shame upon His prophet

for how could he expect to be received after having brought upon himself such disgrace.

Keep that question in mind, for that shame and disgrace are at the heart of the love of God. But for now just see this: God commands Hosea to marry a whore, because God himself is married to whore:

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry;

Having given the command, God gives the reason:

for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.”

The shame the Lord calls the prophet to bear is the shame which the Lord, himself, bears.